Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I had a cucumber with my dinner last night. Not just any cucumber. This one was a perfect specimen. Cool, crunchy, and green as Oz. From its fragrance to its flavour, it was everything a cucumber should be. And I should know because cucumbers have always been one of my favorite treats of the summer season. However the most amazing thing about this particular cucumber was neither is colour, its taste, nor its crunch. You see, this is a cucumber I actually grew myself and I couldn’t be prouder if I’d invented fire.

I have always wanted to grow my own vegetables, but the many towering trees that surround our cottage eclipse the sun required for a healthy crop. So when I heard last year that my city was planning to build a real community garden, a place where citizens could lease a plot of ground to grow their own fruits and vegetables, I was delighted. In my town’s case, they really went above and beyond in the construction of this garden. They located the perfect sun-filled site in a brand-new park. They fenced it in, built raised beds and filled them with soil so rich Jack would have had no need of magic beans to grow a beanstalk fifty feet high. They placed lots of water outlets on site and added a well-stocked tool shed for everyone to use. The Songwriter and I leased two 5x12 plots as soon as they became available and this spring found us planting seeds with a hopeful spirit. And we weren’t alone. In our community garden there are experienced gardeners of course, but also quite a few novices just like us, those whose home gardens are either too small or too shaded to accommodate a flourishing vegetable patch.

I have learned quite a lot about gardening in the past several months. Who knew okra would grow taller than me? But, I’ve learned even more about gardeners. Gardeners are a friendly lot. Calm and considered, they are not prone to selfishness nor hyperbole. Gardeners share and they tell the truth. If you have planted mint because you thought it was pretty and liked the way that it smelled, an experienced gardener will gently pull you aside and clue you in on the invasive properties of that particular plant. And a novice gardener will take that advice and relocate her mint to a container instead. We freely share advice and information. We delight in each other’s successes and keep an eye out for squash worms in each other’s plots. In other words, we’re a real community.

Our vegetables, so hopefully planted in April, have delighted us each summer evening when we all show up with our snippers and baskets to see what’s ready to harvest. It’s been like Easter egg hunting for adults. One often overhears exclamations of delight when a zucchini is found or a bean has suddenly appeared on a curly tendril of green. I did some whooping of my own in June when I lifted a fanlike leaf and spied my very first cucumber, the first of a great many. For the past several months we’ve enjoyed fresh tomatoes and okra, basil and watermelon (fifteen of them!), half-runner beans, oregano, lemon thyme and rosemary, and as many flowers as I could manage to fit it... purple coneflower, marigolds, cosmos, black-eyed susans, lavender and zinnias. The Songwriter even made pickles! A first in our many years together.

One night’s harvest shown here
in my marvelous gathering basket
In the face of so many food recalls and ecoli scares, such as the one that made its virulent way across Europe in June, many of us are more concerned about how our food is grown and harvested. There is even a vegetable garden on the Obama White House lawn. This can only be a good thing. Many cities across the US have begun community garden programs and I can heartily, and empirically, recommend taking part in the opportunity they afford. Homegrown food tastes better, it’s nutritious and growing it is just downright fun.

Here’s one of the dishes I’ve been concocting from our bounty all summer long. You can make it in a flash, it goes spectacularly well with anything you can think of, and it’s just delicious. Give it a try and see what I mean.

House of Edward Corn and Tomatoes

2 teaspoons good olive oil
2 ears fresh corn kernels
1/2 cup sweet onion
2 fresh tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
sea salt, to taste

Heat oil in large skillet till hot. Add corn and onion and saute until the corn just begins to brown, usually about 7 minutes or so. Throw in the diced tomatoes, basil, and salt. Stir together a couple of times and remove from heat. Let stand for about 5 minutes before serving. Reheats wonderfully, if there’s any left.

Top photo from the blog of Miss Moss.
A wonderful place to visit!